Dear Aunty B
I’m a self starter and highly driven individual who owns a small business. My question relates to motivating and driving key staff.
One of my key staff has expressed frustration that I’m picking on him and so musn’t like him. I’ve replied by saying that I am simply recognising his talent and not settling for mediocrity. I’m someone that would want the latter as a sign of respect for my abilities in a boss.
Am I wrong?
Not only are you wrong but you are going to lose your key staff member. Fortunately he is not walking just yet, but giving you clear feedback that could also help you manage and motivate other staff.
Hasn’t someone told you the bad news? As a boss, you wear many hats and you would be well aware of most of them; chief tax collector, designated driver at Christmas party, etc. But one that most bosses don’t know about or find hard to wear is chief psychologist, mind reader, motivator etc.
The best bosses possess a superior emotional intelligence. They instinctively understand that people are different and they look at each of their key individuals to understand what motivates them. Then they modify their leadership skills to the individual. Successful CEOs tell me they spend a lot of time at work talking, motivating and driving both teams and individuals. And they understand that often different individuals need a different approach.
Some staff respond to tough love. You set goals, they rise to the challenge. You point out where they go wrong and they see your interest and attention as flattering and immediately take on board your suggestions. You provide specific examples on how they can improve and they use this to rise to the next level. You yourself were like this, and you usually recruit people like this.
This is what you understand.
But then there are other types that you need in your business. They might be more sensitive, more intuitive. They may run a never ending conversation in their own head about all the things they are doing wrong and how they can improve. They may constantly benchmark against others in the company or their industry. People like this can take criticism very personally. And quite frankly, because they are always critiquing their own performance, they can benefit if their boss can sing a different tune.
There is another point. Your frustrated employee may well feel he cannot live up to your expectations. Eventually he may have to leave.
But may I put something else to you?
Sometimes these people are fantastic in your B team. They are not the stars, but the bulwark of your organisation. You were never in the B team. And you find it hard to accept that someone would want to be in the B team. But if you think of all the successful businesses you have been part of, those in the B team might not come up with the big ideas but they make darn sure the place runs smoothly, the ideas get carried out, and the customers are happy.
So John, have a think. Can you be more positive towards the frustrated staff member? When pointing out how he can do something better, can you always refer to something he has done well?
Can you make him feel liked, respected and encouraged? And maybe he can be a happy member of your B team.